You learn to adjust to life with tinnitus. You always leave the TV on to help you tune out the constant ringing. The loud music at happy hour makes your tinnitus a lot worse so you refrain from going out with your friends. You make appointments regularly to try new therapies and new techniques. Over time, you simply integrate your tinnitus into your daily life.
Mostly, that’s because there’s no cure for tinnitus. But they may be getting close. Research published in PLOS Biology appears to offer hope that we may be getting closer to a lasting and reliable cure for tinnitus. For now, hearing aids can really help.
Tinnitus Has a Cloudy Set of Causes
Tinnitus usually is experienced as a buzzing or ringing in the ear (though, tinnitus could manifest as other sounds too) that do not have an objective cause. Tinnitus is quite common and millions of people cope with it to some degree.
It’s also a symptom, generally speaking, and not itself a cause. In other words, something causes tinnitus – there’s an underlying issue that causes tinnitus symptoms. It can be hard to pin down the cause of tinnitus and that’s one of the reasons why a cure is so evasive. Tinnitus symptoms can manifest due to several reasons.
True, most people attribute tinnitus to hearing loss of some sort, but even that relationship is unclear. Some individuals who have tinnitus do have hearing loss but some don’t.
Inflammation: a New Culprit
Research published in PLOS Biology outlined a study directed by Dr. Shaowen Bao, an associate professor of physiology at the Arizona College of Medicine in Tuscon. Dr. Bao carried out experiments on mice that had tinnitus triggered by noise-induced hearing loss. And the results of these experiments pointed to a culprit of tinnitus: inflammation.
Scans and tests carried out on these mice revealed that the areas of the brain in control of listening and hearing typically had considerable inflammation. As inflammation is the body’s reaction to damage, this finding does suggest that noise-induced hearing loss could be creating some damage we don’t fully understand as of yet.
But this knowledge of inflammation also brings about the potential for a new form of treatment. Because we know (broadly speaking) how to deal with inflammation. The symptoms of tinnitus went away when the mice were given drugs that inhibited inflammation. Or it became impossible to observe any symptoms, at least.
So is There a Magic Pill That Cures Tinnitus?
This research does seem to suggest that, in the long run, there may actually be a pill for tinnitus. Imagine if you could just take a pill in the morning and keep tinnitus at bay all day without needing to turn to all those coping mechanisms.
That’s certainly the goal, but there are several huge hurdles in the way:
- Mice were the focus of these experiments. And there’s a lot to do before this particular strategy is deemed safe and approved for humans.
- The exact cause of tinnitus will differ from one individual to another; whether all or even most instances of tinnitus are connected to some sort of inflammation is still difficult to know.
- We need to be certain any new strategy is safe; it might take some time to determine particular side effects, complications, or problems related to these particular inflammation-blocking medicines.
So it may be a while before we have a pill for tinnitus. But it’s not at all impossible. If you have tinnitus now, that represents a substantial increase in hope. And several other tinnitus treatments are also being researched. The cure for tinnitus gets closer and closer with every breakthrough and every bit of new knowledge.
Is There Anything You Can Do?
In the meantime, individuals who suffered from tinnitus should feel optimistic that in the future there will be a cure for tinnitus. Although we don’t have a cure for tinnitus, there are some modern treatments that can provide real benefits.
There are cognitive therapies that help you learn to ignore tinnitus sounds and others that use noise cancellation techniques. Many individuals also find relief with hearing aids. A cure could be many years off, but that doesn’t mean you need to cope with tinnitus by yourself or unassisted. Spending less time worrying about the ringing in your ears and more time doing the things you love can happen for you by getting the right treatment.